Last year, environmental activist Greta Thunberg began her school strike against climate change. The premise was simple: every Friday, she left school to protest outside the Riksdag and wouldn’t stop until Sweden met its sustainability goals. This past Friday, I joined the strike at the very same place, along with millions of people in coordinated strikes around the world. I’ve taken some extra time to reflect and share why this is so important to me.
I grew up learning and getting anxious about climate change, but until relatively recently it seemed like a possibility of the distant future. Then the news started to come about worsening natural disasters every year all over the world, and soon after, a hurricane hit my hometown for the first time in my life. Though fortunately there wasn’t much long-term damage, it was unlike anything I had ever personally witnessed before. A few months later, I was back at school in Ohio when the polar vortex escaped the poles and brought temperatures as cold as Antarctica with it. I was very fortunate that I was able to stay safe, and not living in the areas bearing the brunt of the weather, but not everyone has the same luck. Climate change has already affected millions of people in much more drastic ways, yet the action taken to stop it has been minimal.
But back to the present and to Sweden. Swedish environmental policies, known for being among the most progressive in the world, still have a long way to go before becoming carbon neutral—and that’s for a country already making large nationwide efforts to progress. In the US, we’re not even close to that level. I’m worried that the amount of time it will take to make a change is longer than the time we have to stop the problem from getting worse, and I’m not alone in that fear.
I was proud to stand up with Greta and millions of other demonstrators on Friday. But I’m sad that I have to.